After suffering through the 2015-2016 Republican primary debates between entirely too many candidates -- relegated to a two-tier system consisting of “varsity and junior varsity” forums -- I was unsure how a field of more than 20 Democratic primary candidates would work this time around.
The decision to split the qualified candidates into two groups based on luck of the draw instead of rankings created an opportunity for the lesser known contenders to compete on the same stage as their more notable rivals.
Surprisingly, the tightly controlled format worked well. It was fast paced and engaging. It favored candidates like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who excelled at articulating her positions with clarity, confidence and ease. Other standouts were Julián Castro and Cory Booker, whose campaigns desperately needed a boost.
Moderators allowed the candidates to have robust exchanges on issues of importance to voters like health care and immigration, which highlighted not only the differences among each candidate but also exposed the policy weaknesses of others. (Yes, Beto O'Rourke, I’m talking to you.)
Despite my considerable policy differences with all of the Democratic candidates, it was refreshing to watch 10, smart, serious contenders engage in an intellectual debate about substantive issues facing our country.
No personal insults. No name calling. No juvenile antics. It was a breath of fresh air.
The ultimate question is can any of them defeat Donald Trump in a general election? Based on some of the answers on major policies from Round 1, I’d say no. Good thing there's a Round 2.
Tara Setmayer is a former GOP Communications Director, host of the "Honestly Speaking with Tara" podcast and a CNN Political Commentator. Follow her on Twitter: .@TaraSetmayer